Hermitage's 10-year plan sees a possible doubling of visitors

The State Hermitage Museum's development plan for 2004-2014 is ready for submission to the Russian government. Word of completion of the plan came from Mikhail Piotrovsky, the museum director, at a press conference on Friday. He said: 'The program will distinctly raise the museum's standing worldwide, will include opening several new cultural-educational centers in various areas of Saint Petersburg and will help raise the number of tourists coming to the city.

Priorities set by the plan include: upgrading maintenance of the museum's collections, raising the level of cultural studies, implementing modern methods of management and assuring the continued accessibility of the collections. Reconstruction of the east wing of the General Staff building is also foreseen, at a cost of USD 150 million. 'Let it be noted that the Hermitage is ready to assume one-third of this cost itself,' Piotrovsky said. 'But we are hoping that the government will earmark USD 50 million to complete construction of new protective vaults.' The museum expects to spend USD 15 million on Internet projects.

The museum is also seeking further consideration to giving Palace Square the status of a historical monument. 'The Palace Square is already accepted as part of the Hermitage by most of the world, and so this decision is truly in order,' the museum director said. The plan also calls for the Hermitage to open several new museums over the decade.

'This is the conservative but ambitious program that we are ready to lay before the government. It will allow us to handle up to 5 million visitors a year, where now we simply physically cannot handle more than 2.5 million,' Piotrovsky said.

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